The Commission has today adopted the forest reference levels (FRLs) for each Member State to apply between 2021 and 2025. FRLs are benchmarks to calculate the sum of greenhouse gas removals and emissions from existing forests in each Member State. CO2 removal from existing forestland is the backbone of the EU land use sink.
Forest Reference Levels are forward-looking benchmarks for accounting net emissions from the existing forests in each Member State. They concern managed forestland, which encompasses existing forests that undergo cycles of growth, harvest and regrowth, and forests under various protection schemes, including old growth and primary forests.
The Forest Reference Levels adopted today are part of the implementation of the LULUCF regulation under the 2030 framework, and are based on a continuation of sustainable forest management practices from the period 2000-2009. They draw on the best available data and take into account dynamic age-related forest characteristics.
Process for setting FRLs
The land use, land use change and forestry regulation for 2021-2030 (Regulation (EU) 2018/841) adopted in May 2018 sets out the rules for accounting emissions and removals for managed forestland, including the process and the requirements for the submission of National Forestry Accounting Plans containing the proposed FRLs.
This process began in 2018 with a series of consultations, the development of a guidance document, and the submission of a draft National Forestry Accounting Plan and FRL by each Member State.
In 2019, the Commission expert group on Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry, including Member States, independent experts, and various stakeholders including NGOs, assessed these draft submissions. In response to this, the Commission made technical recommendations in June 2019 (SWD(2019) 213).
Taking into account the expert group’s views and the Commission’s recommendations, Member States submitted revised plans and, where necessary, recalculated their FRL. The Commission published the revised FRLs proposed by Member States on 25 February 2020. The Commission then reviewed the revised plans and FRLs.
In May 2020, the expert group discussed the Commission’s assessment, and in June 2020 the expert group was consulted on the draft delegated act. The public provided views through the public feedback mechanism over four weeks in August and September.
The adopted delegated act and annex is accompanied by a supportive document (SWD) detailing the Commission’s assessment and recalculations for five Member States. A forthcoming JRC Science for Policy Report will provide additional technical insights.
The delegated act undergoes a two-month period of scrutiny by the Council and European Parliament. After that, the act will be published in the Official Journal and will come into force after 20 days.